Call up any Wikipedia article about literature—a book or an author or a poem or whatever. Now search on that page for the word “bad.”

Dr. Boli predicts, based on a number of experiments, that you will not find it, unless it is in a quotation from the subject of the article, or in a title (like The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, the only appearance of “bad” in the article on Hilaire Belloc). The word will not appear in the text of the article or in any quotations from modern critical assessments of the subject.

From this observation, when you need a hobby, you may spin a whole diatribe on the extinction of moral and critical clarity.


  1. RepubAnon says:

    Sounds like the classic job references that former employers give about about an unsatisfactory employees. When called by a company thinking about hiring that person (or the employee’s attorney pretending to be a prospective employer), the rule typically followed to avoid litigation is: “If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything.”

    In short, look for what is not said.

  2. Campion says:

    This reminded me of this quote (although in this case, they’re trying to avoid aesthetic judgement, not moral): “But the whole modern world, or at any rate the whole modern Press, has a perpetual and consuming terror of plain morals. Men always attempt to avoid condemning a thing upon merely moral grounds. If I beat my grandmother to death to-morrow in the middle of Battersea Park, you may be perfectly certain that people will say everything about it except the simple and fairly obvious fact that it is wrong. Some will call it insane; that is, will accuse it of a deficiency of intelligence. This is not necessarily true at all. You could not tell whether the act was unintelligent or not unless you knew my grandmother. Some will call it vulgar, disgusting, and the rest of it; that is, they will accuse it of a lack of manners. Perhaps it does show a lack of manners; but this is scarcely its most serious disadvantage. Others will talk about the loathsome spectacle and the revolting scene; that is, they will accuse it of a deficiency of art, or æsthetic beauty. This again depends on the circumstances: in order to be quite certain that the appearance of the old lady has definitely deteriorated under the process of being beaten to death, it is necessary for the philosophical critic to be quite certain how ugly she was before. Another school of thinkers will say that the action is lacking in efficiency: that it is an uneconomic waste of a good grandmother. But that could only depend on the value, which is again an individual matter. The only real point that is worth mentioning is that the action is wicked, because your grandmother has a right not to be beaten to death.” – G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

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